Travel tips for blogging

October 20, 2010

Those of you who know me, know that I love traveling and that I am a technofreak.

I would like to share with you some tips in order to have a great trip diary, using the latest techonologies.


Option A

When I travel I pack my nikon d300 with a 10-20mm and a 18-200 lenses. My nikon has a 16Gb memory card. Unfortunately most DSLR do not have GPS unlike the iPhone or other smart phones, but there is a work around. Keep reading.

I also pack my GPS (Garmin Oregon 300), rechargeable batteries and the charger sure. If you don’t have a GPS you should consider getting one, and they are now very cheap. You don’t need a fancy GPS, you just need a GPS logger. No bluetooth even. No screen, just a GPS logger, that when you switch it on it starts recording your trail, and once back home or with your laptop, you just plug it in and extract the .gpx file. I will explain what to do with it. You can but very cheap GPS at Dealextreme a Hong Kong based online shop full of gadgets at ridiculous prices… and shipping anywhere int the world is free. You can have a GPS for $35.

Now if you travel to remote places you can consider a good GPS with SOS function such as the SPOT.

Also if you don’t want to take the gpx file from the gps and use one of the ways I described further down there is a GPS logger (ATP Photo finder) that you sync the time with your camera, insert the SD card, and it tags them automatically. Not for Compact Flash and not for RAW images though…

If it is going to be a long trip, and I plan to blog properly, then I take my old sony vaio t series (10 inch screen) and an external 2.5inches Hard Disk.

Option B

Just your iPhone 3gs or 4. (Has a decent camera and GPS).

Option C

Both. Option A for more elaborated blogging, Option B for quick on the spot.

Which option?

Nowadays with an iPhone 4 you have more than enough to take good quality videos and photos. Take a look at this blog entry for tips on how to take the best photos with the iphone.

In addition to have a 5Mpx camera and shoot HD videos, the new smart phones have GPS so videos and photos are geotagged, and programs such as picasa (for Mac, PC and Linux) or iPhoto (for Mac) plot all your photos in a map which is great.

If you really like photography then you choose to take your DSLR with you, so then you have to take a laptop (and an external HD if it is an old laptop like mine) so you can take the photos out of the camera and put the in your blog, site or community. Or just to empty your camera.

I take both.

iPhone apps and Everytrail

When I first bought my first GPS (Garmin Vista) it was quite a job to be able to do something with the tracks you save. You needed a windows computer, nothing for mac, and the software that came with it was pretty bad.

Then Google Earth would allow you to import the tracks (.gpx files). It was great. It is still great!


Now there is a website that I love and I use as a main stop for GPS logging: Everytrail.

Everytrail is free. You can upload your .gpx file even directly from your gps, and there you can have all your tracks store, that you can tag, put some text, add waypoints with explanations, and edit them!! yes. You can make them public or private. Very very powerful tool.

Everytrail also gives you an embed code that you can put in your blog, where you see the trail you have uploaded, the waypoints you have inserted, stats of time, altitude, speed… and more.

Geotag your photos with Everytrail

Once I have written about my photography workflow. Now when I upload them to flickr, make sure you create a set for those photos in the same GPS track. So if you go out switch on your GPS logger, then all the fotos you take until you switch it off should be in the same set.

With Everytrail, you can select the flickr (or picasa, or uploading manually) set and it will import it. As the camera has a clock it will know when they were take it, and plotted into your trail map. Great.

Now you have to fine tune that. There might be a bit of missmatch between the time in the GPS, the timezone and the camera clock. You take one photo you know exactly where it was taken, drag it to the right place and , then click on “update offset based on this picture” and the rest will follow. Magical!!

Now you have your trail uploaded into Everytrail, you have corrected it, you have added notes as waypoints, and you have uploaded the fotos from flicker that have been geo tagged in Everytrail.

With Everytrail alone you have already a good blog for your trip, because you have a space to write, to give tips and to have the track an dall the photos along it.

In addition to this you can have the embed code and put it into you blog.

Everytrail in your iPhone

Everytrail is available for the iPhone. They have two apps, a free one and a paid one. They are not very good. There is a free app, though, that uses Everytrail as a back end which is absolutly great!

Trailhead iPhone app (from the north face)

Last August the north face released an iphone app (free) that uses everytrail track. This app is just awesome. When you start it you have two main options, start tracking (and it is reasonable on what you use of battery) or see nearby trails. You can track even if you don’t have GPRS or 3G. In this case you don’t see the maps (in the pro app for everytrail you can download offline maps).

Then when tracking, at any given point you can add a photo or a note (not a video yet).

So in summary, with the iphone alone you do what I explained before without the need of a camara, a gps, a computer and a website.

Blogging tools

When traveling often you don’t have internet. Blogging everyday is therefore difficult.

For that reason you should use an offline blogging tool. The best one out there is Windows Live Writer. For the mac you have Ecto or MarsEdit, but Live Writer is much better.

The advantage of using one of this offline tools is that you can write every day, add your photos and so, and when you have internet, then you upload everything.

If you are planning to use GPS info with everytrail, you should do it online though.

This offline tools are good for blogs such as wordpress, blogger etc…

I use wordpress and there is a great plugin called mappress for having a google map where you can easily add a waypoint with html code in it if you wish. It is handy if you want to show your readers where you are sleeping, or what to visit for instance.

Alternatively you can simply go to google maps, log in and under my maps, create a map. It is very easy. Then you can copy the embed code and past it into your blog.

Blogging sites

If you don’t have a blog, and you don’t blog regularly, they you can use one of the dedicated free blogs for travelers. My favorites are:

Travelpod is a great place full of good tips and travelers. You have maps, you can upload photos, … it is a tailored blog for travelers.

Mapvivo is more of a travel diary. It is based on having a map and putting what you do in it.

Geotagging your photos at home

To geo tag the photos using everytrail is OK, but you will probably would love to have your photos in your PC/Mac geotagged as well.

Well there is a way to do it too, even if you camera has no GPS.  As I mentioned with a GPS logger, and a normal camera you can.

Select the photos you took within the period of geotagging. Then use one of these programs:

The best one is GeoSetter (just for PC unfortunately)

GeoSetter (free) allows you to take your photos, the log file of the GPS and geo tag the photos automatically. You can easily take one that you know exactly where it was taken, position it and the rest will follow. GeoSetter will write in the EXIF header of the file, so if you now import them to Picasa, iPhoto, Flickr, etc… they will have GPS information.

For Mac there is a paid program which does pretty much the same: Geophoto. It is even nicer, but not as complete as the Geosetter.

Also GPS photo linker. (tags Raw and it is free). Take a look at the demo, for me is the winner.

With this I modify my photography workflow. The first thing to do is to geotagg the raw photos, then apply DxO for corrections and to create JPEGs.

Here an example of the embed code from a trip with photos in everytrail in Puerto Rico. If you mouse over the bottom you can see a link to the stats and to the slideshow. Also mousing over the spots of the photos.
San Juan de Puerto Rico

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